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In Wurzel, J. (Ed.). (2004).

Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural

education (2nd ed., pp. 62-77). Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation.

Becoming Interculturally Competent

Milton J. Bennett

Discovering the Sequence of Development

After years of observing all kinds of people dealing (or not) with crosscultural situations, I decided to try to make sense of what was happening to
them. I wanted to explain why some people seemed to get a lot better at
communicating across cultural boundaries while other people didnt improve at all, and I thought that if I were able to explain why this happened,
trainers and educators could do a better job of preparing people for crosscultural encounters.
The result of this work was the Developmental Model of Intercultural
Sensitivity (DMIS) (M. Bennett, 1986, 1993; J. Bennett & M. Bennett,
2003, 2004). As people became more interculturally competent it seemed
that there was a major change in the quality of their experience, which I
called the move from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism. I used the term
ethnocentrism to refer to the experience of ones own culture as central
to reality. By this I mean that the beliefs and behaviors that people receive
in their primary socialization are unquestioned; they are experienced as
just the way things are. I coined the term ethnorelativism to mean the
opposite of ethnocentrismthe experience of ones own beliefs and behaviors as just one organization of reality among many viable possibilities.
There also seemed be six distinct kinds of experience spread across the
continuum from ethnocentrism and ethnorelativism. The most ethnocentric
experience was named the Denial of cultural difference, followed by the
Defense against cultural difference. In the middle of the continuum the
Minimization of cultural difference seemed to be a transition from the more
virulent forms of ethnocentrism to a more benign form, leading to the ethnorelative Acceptance of cultural difference. At the heart of ethnorelativism
was Adaptation to cultural difference, followed in some cases by the Integration of cultural difference into identity. The sequence of these experiences became the stages of the DMIS.



In general, the more ethnocentric orientations can be seen as ways of
avoiding cultural difference, either by denying its existence, by raising defenses against it, or by minimizing its importance. The more ethnorelative
worldviews are ways of seeking cultural difference, either by accepting its
importance, by adapting perspective to take it into account, or by integrating
the whole concept into a definition of identity.

The Ethnocentric Stages of Development

Figure 1
Denial Defense Minimization Acceptance Adaptation Integration



As illustrated in Figure 1, the first three DMIS orientations are conceptualized as more ethnocentric, meaning that the tenants of ones own culture
are experienced as central to reality in some way. The default condition of a
typical, monocultural primary socialization is Denial of cultural difference.
This is the state in which ones own culture is experienced as the only real
onethat is, that the patterns of beliefs, behaviors, and values that constitute a culture are experienced as unquestionably real or true. Other cultures
are either not noticed at all, or they are construed in rather vague ways. As a
result, cultural difference is either not experienced at all, or it is experienced
as associated with a kind of undifferentiated other such as foreigner or
immigrant. In extreme cases, the people of ones own culture may be perceived to be the only real humans and other people viewed as simpler
forms in the environment to be tolerated, exploited, or eliminated as necessary.
People with a Denial worldview generally are disinterested in cultural
difference even when it is brought to their attention, although they may act
aggressively to avoid or eliminate a difference if it impinges on them. For
example, many dominant-culture U.S. Americans were not aware of the
large numbers of Latinos who shared their communities until the last census
figures were released. In some cases in which I have consulted, a sudden
increase in the Latino population has been met with angry bewilderment
from Anglos, who ask, How could such a thing have happened to our
community? And of course, U.S. Americans are familiar with the phe63

nomenon of white flightthe avoidance reaction of dominant-culture
European Americans to the introduction of African Americans or other people of color to previously all-white neighborhoods.
I would like to stress that Denial is not particularly American. In my observation, a Denial worldview in Germans, Italians, or Japanese yields a
similar reaction to immigrants. Nor is this worldview restricted to
dominant-culture folks in American or other societies. Even if they are
forced by economic necessity into interaction with the dominant culture,
people of non-dominant groups with a Denial worldview remain unable to
recognize the cultural dimension of the interaction. For instance, as many
African Americans as European Americans seem to be surprised at cultural
differences between these groups in communication style and nonverbal
behavior. This is because the Denial worldview in both groups only allows
for observations within the familiar categories of race and associated
constructs of deserved or undeserved inequities in political and economic
power. The tendency to use familiar but often simplistic or fallacious
categories of race and ethnicity seems also to characterize the Denial form
of dominant/non-dominant interaction in other societies.
Another way a Denial worldview shows up is as an inability (and disinterest) in differentiating national cultures. For instance, U.S. Americans at
this stage often cannot tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese
cultures, or to distinguish among Gulf State Arabs (e.g. Kuwaitis), Fertile
Crescent Arabs (e.g. Syrians), and Persians (in Iran). While educated Europeans or Asians are generally more knowledgeable than U.S. Americans
about geopolitical issues, at Denial they seem just as likely to neglect these
kinds of cultural differences. For example, Asian sojourners seem to be at
least as inclined as Americans to maintain the exclusive company of their
compatriots, and many Europeans seem oblivious to the cultural factors that
frequently underlie political differences.
The main issue to be resolved at Denial is the tendency to avoid noticing
or confronting cultural difference. People here need to attend to the simple
existence of other cultures, both globally and domestically. Those who are
facilitating this initial recognition (teachers, trainers, friends) need to
understand that Denial is not a refusal to confront the facts. It is instead
an inability to make the perceptual distinctions that allow cultural facts to
be recognized. When facilitators fail to understand the experience of Denial,
they are likely to present cultural information in too-complex ways and to
become impatient at the aggressive ignorance often displayed at this stage.
The resolution of Denial issues allows the creation of simple categories for
particular cultures, which sets up the conditions for the experience of Defense.


Defense against cultural difference is the state in which ones own culture (or an adopted culture) is experienced as the only viable onethe most
evolved form of civilization, or at least the only good way to live. People
at Defense have become more adept at discriminating difference, so they
experience cultural differences as more real than do people at Denial. But
the Defense worldview structure is not sufficiently complex to generate an
equally human experience of the other. While the cultural differences experienced by people with a Defense perspective are stereotypical, they nevertheless seem real by comparison to the Denial condition. Consequently,
people at Defense are more openly threatened by cultural differences than
are people in a state of Denial. The world is organized into us and them,
where ones own culture is superior and other cultures are inferior.
People of dominant cultures are likely to experience Defense as an attack on their values (often perceived by others as privileges). They may
complain that immigrants or other minorities are taking our jobs. They
are likely to have many negative stereotypes of them, including a full
stock of jokes emphasizing the assumed failings of other cultures. In its
benign form, Defense may be expressed by helping non-dominant group
members to succeed by bringing them into the assumedly superior dominant
culture. The politically correct descriptions of some mentoring programs in
corporations may mask this Defense orientation. In its more virulent form,
Defense is likely to be expressed by membership in groups that exclude cultural difference or in outright attacks people of other cultures. In the U.S.,
the Ku Klux Klan and its imitators are obvious examples of the latter.
People of non-dominant cultures are more likely to experience Defense
as discovering and solidifying a separate cultural identity in contrast to the
dominant group (cf., Banks, 1988; Parham, 1989). Cross (1995) argues that
such a stage is necessary in the development of non-dominant ethnic identity to counteract the efforts of the dominant group to impose their culture
on all members of a society. Like that of dominant group members, this Defense experience is accompanied by positive stereotyping of ones own
culture and negative stereotyping of other cultures.
In the international domain, Defense is clearly the predominant orientation of nation-building. Like mentoring, such efforts are likely implicit
(and sometimes even explicit) attempts to export the builders assumedly
superior cultural values. The polarized worldview is also evident in the
statement youre either with us or against us, uttered by a variety of world
leaders. Other incidents of a culturally polarized worldview are evident in
the complaints of travelers about unfamiliar food and similar failures of
other cultures to not be like us.



A variation on Defense is Reversal, where an adopted culture is experienced as superior to the culture of ones primary socialization (going native, or passing). Reversal is like Defense in that it maintains a polarized,
us and them worldview. It is unlike Defense in that it does not maintain
the other culture as a threat. Reversal is common among long-term sojourners such as Peace Corps Volunteers, missionaries, corporate expatriates, and
exchange students. Reversal may masquerade as cultural sensitivity, since it
provides a positive experience of a different culture along with seemingly
analytical criticisms of ones own culture. However, the positive experience
of the other culture is at an unsophisticated stereotypical level, and the criticism of ones own culture is usually an internalization of others negative
Reversal in domestic multicultural relations is an interesting and complicated phenomenon. It appears that some people of the dominant culture
take on the cause of non-dominant cultures in stereotypical way. For instance, in the U.S. a white person of European American ethnicity may become a rabid proponent of African American issues. While it is certainly
not necessarily ethnocentric for anyone to identify with the plight of
historically oppressed people, in this hypothetical case the European
American person sees all black people as saintly martyrs and all white
people (including herself before the conversion) as brutal oppressors. By
changing the poles of the polarized worldview, this person has not changed
her essentially unsophisticated experience of cultural difference.
The resolution of Defense issues involves recognizing the common humanity of people of other cultures. Techniques such as ropes courses or
other experiences that create mutual dependence independent of gender or
race can be effective for this purpose. Facilitators who try to correct the
stereotypes of people in Defense are likely to fall prey to the polarized
worldview themselves, becoming yet another example of the evils of multiculturalism or globalization. The need here is to establish commonality, not
to introduce more sophisticated understanding of difference. When this
resolution is accomplished, the stage is set for a move into Minimization.
Minimization of cultural difference is the state in which elements of
ones own cultural worldview are experienced as universal. The threat associated with cultural differences experienced in Defense is neutralized by
subsuming the differences into familiar categories. For instance, cultural
differences may be subordinated to the overwhelming similarity of peoples
biological nature (physical universalism). The experience of similarity of
natural physical processes may then be generalized to other assumedly natural phenomena such as needs and motivations. The assumption that typolo66


gies (personality, learning style, etc.) apply equally well in all cultures is an
example of Minimization.
The experience of similarity might also be experienced in the assumed
cross-cultural applicability of certain religious, economic, political, or philosophical concepts (transcendent universalism). For instance, the religious
assumptions that everyone in the world is a child of God or that everyone
has karma are examples of Minimization. Note that it is not ethnocentric to
have a religious belief; however, it is ethnocentric to assume that people in
other cultures either do or would if they could share your belief. Similarly,
the assumption that people of all cultures would like to live in a democratic
society (or in a benevolent dictatorship) if they only could is ethnocentric
by this definition. Because these universal absolutes obscure deep cultural
differences, other cultures may be trivialized or romanticized at Minimization.
People at Minimization expect similarities, and they may become insistent about correcting others behavior to match their expectations. Many
exchange students have reported to me that their host families, despite their
kindness, generosity, and sincere curiosity about different customs, do not
really want their students to have different basic values from themselves. I
have observed that many host families are at Minimization. The families are
motivated by sharing the host countrys way of life with the student, on the
assumption that of course the student will appreciate that way of life once
he or she sees what it is. If the student is insufficiently appreciative, it
threatens the Minimization assumption that all everyone really wants to be
like us. This operation of Minimization is far more dangerous, of course,
when the appreciation of our way of life is being promoted by armed nation-builders.
Particularly for people of dominant cultures, Minimization tends to
mask recognition of their own culture (ethnicity) and the institutional privilege it affords its members. Because people at this stage no longer experience others in a polarized way, they tend to overestimate their racial and
ethnic appreciation. While they may be relatively tolerant, people at Minimization are unable to appreciate other cultures because they cannot see
their own culture clearly. If, for instance, I cannot see that my communication style is a cultural pattern, I think that everyone does (or would if they
could) use the same style. Consequently, I judge the failure to use my style
as a lack of social skill or as a choice to be alternative. Either of these
judgments misses the point that other people may be naturally using a culturally different style.
. For people of non-dominant cultures, a Minimization worldview involves the acceptance of something like the melting pot idea. It generally

is a position that is perceived and perhaps intended as a political statement.
In any case, the experience is one that minimizes the cultural differences
between the dominant and non-dominant groups in such a way that the
same universal standard (e.g. university entrance requirements) can be
applied to all the groups without bias. When the result of such an
application of standard yields group differences, the explanation by both
dominant and non-dominant Minimizers is that the groups actually differ in
their intelligence, skills, or preparation. The idea that all standards are
necessarily constrained by cultural context does not occur in Minimization.
Current research with the Intercultural Development Inventory, an instrument that assesses the experience of cultural difference in terms of the
DMIS, has shown that Minimization is a kind of transition state between the
constellation of Denial/Defense and the constellation Acceptance/
Adaptation (Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003). The experience of
Minimization is theoretically ethnocentric in that it takes ones own cultural
patterns as central to an assumed universal reality. In other words, the experience is that all people are essentially similar in ways that explainable by
my own cultural beliefs. However, the experience also includes the ability
to perceive some cultural differences in largely non-stereotypical ways and
to recognize the essential humanness of others.
The missing piece in Minimization, and the issue that needs to be resolved to move into ethnorelativism, is the recognition of your own culture
(cultural self-awareness). In more general terms, this is the ability to experience culture as a context. Only when you see that all your beliefs, behaviors, and values are at least influenced by the particular context in which
you were socialized can you fully imagine alternatives to them. Facilitators
at this stage need to stress the development of cultural self-awareness in
contrast to other cultures before they move into too much detail about the
other cultures. This is the time to introduce the basic culture-general frameworks of intercultural communication (e.g. Bennett, 1998b).

The Ethnorelative Stages of Development

The second three DMIS orientations are defined as more ethnorelative,
meaning that ones own culture is experienced in the context of other cultures. Acceptance of cultural difference is the state in which ones own culture is experienced as just one of a number of equally complex worldviews.
By discriminating differences among cultures (including ones own), and by
constructing a kind of self-reflexive perspective, people with this worldview
are able to experience others as different from themselves, but equally human. People at Acceptance can construct culture-general categories that al68


low them to generate a range of relevant cultural contrasts among many
cultures. Thus, they are not necessarily experts in one or more cultures (although they might also be that); rather, they are adept at identifying how
cultural differences in general operate in a wide range of human interactions.
In this last regard, is important to remember that the DMIS is not a
model of knowledge, attitude, or skills. So, the fact that you are knowledgeable about a culture may or may not be associated with the ethnorelative
experience of Acceptance. I know a lot of people who are knowledgeable
about Japanese hospitality rituals or German status relationships who do not
seem to have any general feeling for those cultures. I suspect it is because,
despite their specific knowledge, these people are not able to experience the
cultural worldviews of which those behaviors are a part. I would hypothesize that people need to have a critical mass of information about another
culture in order to apprehend the worldview, and that even that amount of
information is useless unless basic Minimization issues have been resolved
first; that is, that they are ready to hear the information.
People may have some of the linguistic or behavioral skills of another
culture without any feeling for how to use those skills in culturally appropriate waysa condition that I have coined being a fluent fool. (Bennett,
1997). Perhaps people acquired the abilities from short sojourns or training
programs. In any case, like knowledge, the skills are not very useful unless
they are accompanied by an Acceptance/Adaptation worldview.
Most commonly, people might have positive attitudes toward another
culture without having the ability to experience the other culture with much
depth. I have observed this to be typical of efforts to appear cosmopolitan or
politically correct. Acceptance does not mean agreement. It is nave to think
that intercultural sensitivity and competence is always associated with liking
other cultures or agreeing with their values or ways of life. In fact, the uncritical agreement with other cultures is more characteristic of the ethnocentric condition of Reversal, particularly if it is accompanied by a critical
view of your own culture. Some cultural differences may be judged negativelybut the judgment is not ethnocentric unless it is associated with
simplification, or withholding equal humanity.
This last point brings up the major issue to be resolved at Acceptance:
value relativity. To accept the relativity of values to cultural context (and
thus to attain the potential to experience the world as organized by different
values), you need to figure out how to maintain ethical commitment in the
face of such relativity (cf. Perry, 1970). This is a difficult matter, as illustrated in the following example. A student recently confided in me her concern that she was being ethnocentric in her support of the 2003 U.S. inva69

sion of Iraq. I replied that it was possible that she was, but it was also possible that she was making an ethnorelative judgment. The test is whether she
was according full humanity to the Iraqis that she felt should be forcibly
dealt with. So I asked What is good about Saddam Hussein from some
Iraqi perspectives? She said, nothing is good he is a monster and all
Iraqis think so except some evil people who are profiting from his cruelty.
Leaving aside the history of U.S. profits from Iraq, I replied that her concerns were justified she was being ethnocentric. She was imposing her
values on others by making the Minimization assumption that her values
were the most real. Further, she was denying equal humanity to Saddam
Hussein and Iraqis who supported him by labeling them monsters and
A more ethnorelative approach to the Iraq situation would have been to
recognize that Saddam Hussein is a complex human being whose behavior,
while good in some Arab contexts because it stands up to the Americans
or expresses Arab pride, is nevertheless bad in the context of the current
world consensus about the use of violence and intimidation in domestic
governance. The question then is are you committed to stopping the bad
behavior? Is Saddams behavior sufficiently different from other world
leaders to allow a non-hypocritical intervention? Is the need for intervention important enough to outweigh the principle of national sovereignty?
Are the consequences of interference better than the consequences of not
interfering? The answer to all these questions could be yes. I believe that
had my student considered these and other such questions, and had she then
accorded Hussein and other Iraqis a complexity of motive similar to her
own, then she could have supported the U.S. invasion in an ethnorelative
way. Of course, a different person might make the same considerations and
conclude that the invasion was not supportable. But both positions would be
Resolution of the issue of value relativity and commitment allows you
to take the perspective of another culture without losing your own perspective. This is the crux of the next stage.
Adaptation to cultural difference is the state in which the experience of
another culture yields perception and behavior appropriate to that culture.
Ones worldview is expanded to include relevant constructs from other
cultural worldviews. People at Adaptation can engage in empathythe
ability to take perspective or shift frame of reference vis-a-vis other cultures. This shift is not merely cognitive; it is a change in the organization of
lived experience, which necessarily includes affect and behavior. Thus,
people at Adaptation are able to express their alternative cultural experience
in culturally appropriate feelings and behavior. If the process of frame


shifting is deepened and habitualized, it becomes the basis of bicuIturality
or multiculturality.
Adaptation is not assimilation. The term assimilation is understood by
many immigrants and people of non-dominant groups to refer to something
like the melting pot. This idea of assimilation is that you should give up
who you were before and take on the worldview of your host, or dominant
culture. The concept of adaptation offers an alternative to assimilation. Adaptation involves the extension of your repertoire of beliefs and behavior,
not a substitution of one set for another. So you dont need to lose your primary cultural identity to operate effectively in a different cultural context.
In domestic multicultural contexts, adaptation leads to mutual adjustment. In other words, people of both dominant and non-dominant groups
are equally inclined to adapt their behavior to one another. Of course, the
dominant group has the power to demand that only the non-dominant group
adjust. But dominant-culture people who experience cultural difference in
this more ethnorelative way are less likely to invoke that power. Instead,
they are curious about cultural difference and actually eager to experience
other cultures. For those reasons, never mind fairness, they seek the other
cultural perspectives represented in groups and attempt to learn how to act
in ways that are to some extent appropriate in those cultural contexts. They
may also be motivated by fairness, but unlike some others who may
sincerely believe in equity while lacking the ability to act equitably, these
people have the worldview structure to support the kind of mutual cultural
adaptation that actually implements equity.
Adaptation as defined here has long been the goal of intercultural communication training for international sojourners. Programs for exchange
students, development workers, expatriates, and others have stressed the
acquisition of culturally appropriate behavior. As we have seen, however,
such behavior may only be foolish in its implementation without an appropriate worldview structure to support it. The DMIS suggests that a lot of
attention should go to preparing trainees to experience another culture before trying to train any particular behavior.
The major issue to be resolved at Adaptation is that of authenticity.
How is it possible to perceive and behave in culturally different ways and
still be yourself? The answer seems to lie in defining yourself more
broadly in expanding the repertoire of perception and behavior that is
yours. So, you might be to some extent German critical, Japanese
indirect, Italian ironic and African American personal, in addition to your
primary European American male explicit style. Insofar as each of these
behaviors emerged from a feeling for the various cultures, they would all be
authentically you (Bennett & Castiglioni, 2004).

The resolution of authenticity at Adaptation may establish the condition
of the last stage of development. However, movement to the last stage does
not represent a significant improvement in intercultural competence. Rather,
it describes a fundamental shift in ones definition of cultural identity.
Integration of cultural difference is the state in which ones experience
of self is expanded to include the movement in and out of different cultural
worldviews. Here, people are dealing with issues related to their own cultural marginality; they construe their identities at the margins of two or
more cultures and central to none. As suggested by J. Bennett (1993), cultural marginality may have two forms: an encapsulated form, where the
separation from culture is experienced as alienation; and a constructive
form, in which movements in and out of cultures are a necessary and positive part of ones identity. Integration is not necessarily better than Adaptation in situations demanding intercultural competence, but it is descriptive
of a growing number of people, including many members of non-dominant
cultures, long-term expatriates, and global nomads.
A certain amount of encapsulated marginality seems to accompany the
ethnorelative experience of non-dominant group members, who may find
themselves caught between their own minority ethnic group and the majority ethnic group. Their ethnic compatriots may perceive them as selling
out to the dominant group, even though they are not fully accepted by the
dominant group. Also, exchange students who have advanced well beyond
Reversal or Defense may again experience debilitating self-criticism or
judgmentalism of others as their cultural identification vacillates. While
people in this condition are quite interculturally sensitive, they lack the
ability to implement that sensitivity in consistently competent ways.
Constructive marginality represents the resolution of the identity issue
of Integration. Here people are able to experience themselves as multicultural.

Explaining Intercultural Development

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS) was developed with a grounded theory approach (e.g., Glaser & Strauss, 1967;
Strauss & Corbin, 1990), which involves using theoretical concepts to explain a pattern that emerges from systematic observations. The pattern that
emerged from my observations is described above as the stages of the
DMIS. Below is a summary of the theoretical concepts I used to explain
why the pattern occurred and which inform the description of each stage.
. The most basic theoretical concept in the DMIS is that experience (including cross-cultural experience) is constructed. This is the central tenant


of cognitive constructivism (e.g. Brown, 1972; Kelly, 1963; von Foester,
1984), which holds that we do not perceive events directly. Rather, our experience of events is built up through templates, or sets of categories, that
we use to organize our perception of phenomena. So, for instance, an
American person who happens to be in the vicinity of a Japanese event may
not have anything like a Japanese experience of that event, if he or she does
not have any Japanese categories with which to construct that experience.
Instead, he or she will have an ethnocentric experience, meaning that ones
own culture is the only basis for perceiving events.
A related assumption made in the DMIS is that people can be more or
less sensitive to cultural difference. This idea is based on the constructivist idea of cognitive complexity (e.g. Delia, Crockett, & Gonyea, 1970; Goertzel, n.d.; Loevinger, 1970; Loevinger & Wessler, 1979). More cognitively complex individuals are able to organize their perceptions of events
into more differentiated categories. Or, stated differently, more cognitively
complex people can make finer discriminations among phenomena in a particular domain. For instance, a wine connoisseur may be able to taste the
difference between two vintages of the same variety of red wine, while a lay
drinker may only be able to differentiate red wine from white wine. Similarly, people who are more interculturally sensitive have a more developed
set of categories for making discriminations among cultures. So a sophisticated sojourner can observe subtle differences in nonverbal behavior or
communication style, while a nave traveler may notice only differences in
the money, the food, or the toilets. As categories for cultural difference become more complex and sophisticated, perception becomes more interculturally sensitive.
How is the complexity of perception described by intercultural sensitivity related to the effective or successful behavior associated with
intercultural competence? Studies in communicative constructivism (e.g.
Applegate & Sypher, 1988; Delia, 1987) show that people who are more
cognitively complex are also more able to be person-centered and perspective-taking in their communication (although they may not always exercise the ability). These qualities are associated with more successful interpersonal communication. More successful intercultural communication
similarly involves being able to see a culturally different person as equally
complex to ones self (person-centered) and being able to take a culturally
different perspective. Thus, greater intercultural sensitivity creates the potential for increased intercultural competence.
One more dimension of constructivism that is important to the model
can be called experiential constructivism. This dimension includes ideas
from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1972, 1979), the biologists Hum73

berto Maturana and Francisco Varela (e.g. Maturana & Varela, 1987; Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991), the psycholinguist Edward Sapir and
Benjamin Lee Whorf (1956) and more recently George Lakoff and Mark
Johnson (Lakoff, 1987; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, 1999), the neuroanatomist
Antonio Damasio (1999), the communicologist Dean Barnlund (1998), and
my own work (Bennett, 1977; Bennett, 1998a; Bennett & Castiglioni,
2004). All these theoreticians refer to how we co-create our experience
through our corporal, linguistic, and emotional interaction with natural and
human (including conceptual) environments. This assumption allows the
DMIS to model a mechanism of intercultural adaptation.
The crux of intercultural adaptation is the ability to have an alternative
cultural experience. Individuals who have received largely monocultural
socialization normally have access only to their own cultural worldview, so
they are unable to experience the difference between their own perception
and that of people who are culturally different. The development of
intercultural sensitivity describes how we gain the ability to create an alternative experience that more or less matches that of people in another culture. People who can do this have an intercultural worldview.
The DMIS supposes that contact with cultural difference generates
pressure for change in ones worldview. This happens because the default
ethnocentric world view, while sufficient for managing relations within
ones own culture, is inadequate to the task of developing and maintaining
social relations across cultural boundaries. Assuming that there is a need for
such cross-cultural relations (as typically is the case, for instance, for long
term international sojourners, members of multinational teams, and for educators, healthcare workers, and other service providers in multicultural
communities), then there is pressure to develop greater competence in
intercultural matters. This pressure may be ignored, so change as a function
of contact is not inevitable (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2000).
Each change in worldview structure generates new and more sophisticated issues to be resolved in intercultural encounters. The resolution of the
relevant issues activates the emergence of the next orientation. Since issues
may not be totally resolved, movement may be incomplete and ones experience of difference diffused across more than one worldview. However,
movement through the orientations is posited to be unidirectional, with only
occasional retreats. In other words, people do not generally regress from
more complex to less complex experiences of cultural difference.
Each orientation of the DMIS is indicative of a particular worldview
structure, with certain kinds of cognition, affect, and behavior vis--vis
cultural difference typically associated with each configuration. It is important to note that the DMIS is not predominately a description of cognition,


affect, or behavior. Rather, it is a model of how the assumed underlying
worldview moves from an ethnocentric to a more ethnorelative condition,
thus generating greater intercultural sensitivity and the potential for more
intercultural competence. Changes in knowledge, attitudes, or skills are
taken as manifestations of changes in the underlying worldview. This distinction is important because developmental interventions such as training
programs are appropriately aimed at the worldview,. not at any particular
knowledge (such as in area studies programs), any particular attitude change
(such as in prejudice reduction program.s) or any particular skill acquisition
(such as role-plays or cultural assimilators). .

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